The warm-up fixture between India ‘A’ and England has played according to the script thus far. The batting department has presented its formidable side whereas the bowling expectedly revealed that there isn’t much bench strength. However, it cannot be denied that Yuvraj Singh, notwithstanding Abhinav Mukund and Manoj Tiwary’s knocks, has been the biggest gain of this tour game.
Although skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has expressed concerns over Yuvraj’s fitness, it’d augur well if the latter is picked for the first Test, considering his recent exploits with the bat. Agreed, five days on field is going to be an arduous task, but hasn’t Yuvraj already done enough to prove that he’s ready for the big stage?
In a bowling line-up featuring the likes of James Anderson, Steven Finn, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann, Yuvraj came up with a gutsy 59, and if that wasn’t indicative of his recuperation, he dismissed Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell in his sixteen overs. With such a performance, there is little doubt that Yuvraj can be an asset in the No.6 position, especially for the kind of stability he can possibly inject. As Arunabha Sengupta stated in one of his earlier articles, Yuvraj’s comeback has been ethereal and he must be included for the Tests.
During the recently-concluded Duleep Trophy too, Yuvraj’s performance has been phenomenal, to say the least. His 208 against the Central Zone is testimony to the fact that he is fit enough to take field in the longer format. Also, his strike in both these games – 86.30 against Central Zone and 73.75 against England - has been noteworthy. A batsman who can up the ante as well as consolidate when required is what India precisely needs at the No.6 position. Yuvraj fits that bill perfectly. It’s advantageous that India is in a position to pick the squad on a Test-by-Test basis, for if it turns out that he cannot physically withstand the demands of the version, there is always someone like a Manoj Tiwary or Suresh Raina to fill the shoes.
In a way, India are fortunate that Tiwary has struck form at a crucial juncture. Although it’d be naïve at this point to read too much into his 93 against England, it augurs well that he has some runs under his belt. If Yuvraj is picked and it’s deduced that he cannot handle the physical requirements of Test cricket just yet, then Tiwary would be a safe bet to continue with. However, one shouldn’t be surprised if the latter gets picked ahead of Yuvraj for the Ahmedabad Test, since Dhoni minced no words when he said, “We have to assess whether Yuvraj is ready to field for two days.”
Also, considering that the All-India Selection Committee will meet on November 5 to pick the squad, one wonders whether Yuvraj has done enough to prove his fitness to the selectors and the skipper. Nevertheless, a semi-fit Yuvraj can still be a force to reckon with, and looking at how Dhoni usually operates, he’s sure to let him be his own judge. Yuvraj in the middle-order will certainly keep the Englishmen on their toes, and it is for this psychological edge that India’s think tank must consider choosing him for the Test at Ahmedabad.
As mentioned, Abhinav Mukund too has thrown in his hat, and Shikhar Dhawan’s good show in the domestic circuit since the last many months will also be playing on the selectors’ minds. Hence, it’s imperative that Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag – who’ve not had a decent outing with the bat in Tests since July 2011 – put up a good show against the touring Englishmen. With so many capable youngsters constantly knocking the door of the head honchos, Sehwag and Gambhir certainly don’t have a long rope to hang on to.
All eyes will be on the selectors and Yuvraj come Monday. While Tiwary has certainly done his best to get noticed, it’d augur well to pick a zealous Yuvraj. As India ‘A’’s coach Lalchand Rajput aptly said, “I know Manoj batted very well, but the way Yuvraj was timing the ball, and one of the sixes against Swann was the best. I think Yuvraj is batting at his prime and, hopefully, he will keep doing it.”
Will Yuvraj’s dream of making a Test comeback finally take shape?
Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)